The all-white, all-male Annapolis Elks Lodge 622 took a step this week toward admitting women, a move that could result in every Elks lodge in the nation following suit.
By a 48-3 vote Wednesday night, the lodge membership asked the Elks national convention to change its bylaws to admit women.
If approved by the national convention next summer, the change would mean that every Elks lodge in the country would have to admit women, lodge Exalted Ruler George Bond said, because individual lodges can't change their bylaws. The issue came up at the national convention two years ago and was defeated, he said.
The lodge's vote comes as the Annapolis City Council considers delaying the effect of a law that would deny the lodge a city liquor license. "We had to show them that we were in good faith trying to comply with the law," Bond said.
The law, which will deny liquor licenses to private clubs whose bylaws discriminate on the basis of race, gender or ethnic background, is set to take effect Jan. 1. To give the Elks lodge time to change its bylaws, Alderman Wayne C. Turner, R-Ward 6, has proposed delaying implementation until August 1991 for clubs whose bylaws are set by national memberships.
The law still will take effect in January for other private clubs. City liquor licenses are renewed in April.
If the council approves Turner's proposal, the Elks lodge would have to apply to the city Alcoholic Beverages Control Board for the extension.
The council's rules committee is considering Turner's bill and will forward its recommendation to the council for a final vote. The recommendation will apparently be favorable -- two of the committee's three members said the lodge's vote is enough to win their support for the extension.
"As long as they're moving forward in good faith, I have no problems with extending it," said Alderman Ruth C. Gray, R-Ward 4, who voted for the initial bill in February, when it passed, 5-4.
Alderman Theresa DeGraff, R-Ward 7, a rules committee member who voted against the legislation last winter, also said she would support the Elks' extension.
Committee Chairman Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, who sponsored the anti-discrimination bill, said he wanted to see more progress before giving the Elks lodge extra time to comply.
"I am hoping that this is the first step toward an effort to fully include all members of the community," Snowden said. "I want to see documented good-faith efforts."
While the lodge's bylaws do not discriminate against blacks, the club has no black members, a fact that concerns Snowden, one of two black City Council members.
Brown said that if the lodge loses its liquor license, it might sue to overturn the law or sell its Rowe Boulevard building and move out of town.
"We like Annapolis," Brown said. "We've been here 90 years. We need the liquor license to sustain the lodge and our charitable works."
Other private clubs in the city whose bylaws also exclude women from membership, such as the Annapolitan Club, could lose liquor licenses under the law.
The Eastport Democratic Club changed its bylaws to admit women earlier this year, then denied membership to three women who applied, prompting Snowden to consider expanding the law to include discriminatory practices.
Both clubs have no black members.